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Social media movie discourse is at it again. This time around, I’m being horrified by posts from younger moviegoers who freely admit to fast-forwarding through movies to skip past “the boring parts” (like, you know, the dialogue scenes), or even to watching them at double speed. Let’s talk about attention spans…and how we ain’t got ‘em anymore.

I’m not saying I blame these folks. Modern tech takes advantage of our brains’ addictive tendencies by training us to use our phones like we’re on a ravenous hunt for serotonin. Meanwhile, blockbusters have gotten longer, but also faster and louder—there’s a big difference between three hours of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and three hours of Avengers: Endgame. When we’re asked to listen to too long a bit of dialogue, or gaze at a vista that doesn’t seem to be directly advancing the plot, we’re pulling out our phones. (I’m also guilty of this when watching at home, which is part of the reason I love seeing movies in the theater, where I am duty-bound to actually pay attention.)

But there’s an art to the boring movie, and some of them wouldn’t be half as compelling if they actually tried to thrill us with every frame. Here are 23 great movies that invite you to be bored. They’ll move you deeply, challenge your preconceptions, or maybe put you right to sleep. Any would be a win, really.

Skinamarink (2022)

Skinamarink – Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Original

Run time: 100 minutes

Writer/director Kyle Edward Ball’s film began life as a YouTube channel devoted to recreations of the childhood nightmares submitted by users. What plot there is in this feature length take on that idea involves a 4-year-old named Kevin who injures himself while home alone with his 6-year-old sister, Kaylee. What follows makes little narrative sense, and it’s certainly easy to understand why the micro-budget film was polarizing for audiences. Where the film succeeds, and brilliantly, is in recreating the sense of a child’s twilight world, one in which even a familiar home can feel bizarre, unsettling, and terrifying under the right circumstances. Ball takes his time creating that mood…and it’s nearly all mood. I’m not sure what he’s trying to do has ever been done better.

Where to stream: Shudder, Hulu

Inland Empire (2006)

INLAND EMPIRE | Official Trailer | STUDIOCANAL International

Run time: 180 minutes

I’ve seen just about everything that David Lynch has ever produced, and I still have no idea how to talk about Inland Empire. If you don’t count Twin Peaks: The Return (the 18-hours of which Lynch wants you to consider a film, this is the most recent of the director’s features, though it was released way back in 2006 (the first film to be shot entirely on digital video, it’s recently been remastered). There are sex workers and anthropomorphic rabbits in a story about a woman who gives her all to get a part in a Hollywood movie, only to descend into a nearly three-hour fever dream. It’s either a moving and surreal dive into some kind of cinematic collective unconscious, or an impenetrable collection of non sequiturs. No one musters emotions of unease and dread like Lynch, even if we, as viewers, aren’t even sure what we’re so anxious about.

Where to stream: The Criterion Channel

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)


Run time: 132 minutes (theatrical cut)

There’s a scene in the first Star Trek movie that’s controversial not for its political or philosophical content, but for its length: a nearly five-minute shuttle flyby of the newly re-designed USS Enterprise, accompanied by a rousing bit of Jerry Goldsmith scoring. It’s either a nearly erotic bit of spaceship porn, or one of the dullest sequences ever put to film, depending on your perspective (I’m very much team spaceship porn). The rest of director Robert Wise’s movie, rushed into theaters before it was quite finished, is similarly stately paced. There’s no fighting, little action, and plenty of self-serious pontificating. In some ways, it feels like it’s trying too hard to be 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it has a strange power of its own.

Where to stream: Paramount+

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Run time: 81 minutes

So much of the ur-found footage film’s runtime involves slightly (but realistically) annoying people wandering around lost in the Maryland woods while disturbing, but rarely thrilling, events put them on edge and turn them against each other. Little actually happens before the memorable closing minutes, but it all serves to effectively build up an unbearable sense of tension. This is definitely one where the sum adds up to more than the (often boring) parts.

Where to stream: Redbox, Plex, Freevee

Russian Ark (2002)

Russian Ark | Full Movie

Run time: 96 minutes

As boring Russian movies go, Russian Ark is especially challenging, but also, ultimately, really lovely and rewarding. It’s also a supreme technical feat, unfolding in a single, uninterrupted take. Filmed in the the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, the story, such as it is, involves an unnamed narrator who wanders the halls of the building, encountering real and fictional people from the city’s 300-year history. The discussions are largely philosophical, but the scope increases as the movie progresses. By the end, we’ve encountered 2,000 people and multiple orchestras, all seamlessly maneuvered through time and space.

Where to stream: Hoopla, Kanopy, Plex

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Official Trailer – Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman Movie HD

Run time: 159 minutes

Few Stanley Kubrick movies couldn’t appear here; the director loves his deliberate pacing. Eyes Wide Shut is a particularly interesting case, though, since a movie about Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and a kinky sex cult doesn’t sound like something in danger of putting people to sleep. And yet, people were initially put off by the movie’s chilly formalism and distant, dreamlike feel. Kubrick’s swan song was a bit of a bait-and-switch, promising a peek under the covers of one of Hollywood’s then-hottest couples, and instead offering a slow-paced cautionary tale about the dangers of sexual obsession.

Where to stream: Paramount+

Ikiru (1952)

Ikiru (1952) by Akira Kurosawa – Official Trailer

Run time: 143 minutes

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is best known for epics such as The Seven Samurai and Rashomon, but even in those relatively action-packed films, an ambivalence toward lives filled with violence breaks through. His filmography is also filled with quieter, more contemplative works, with 1952’s Ikiru (meaning, roughly, “To Live”) among the best. Kanji Watanabe (Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura) plays a veteran bureaucrat who has worked in the same monotonous job for decades. At the same time he discovers that he’s dying of stomach cancer, a group of parents arrives in search of permits to clear a cesspool and build a playground for the local children. Watanabe commits himself to going against everything he’s learned about playing by the rules in order to help the parents cut through the red tape that would likely put an end to their dream. It’s both a universal and a uniquely Japanese story about heroic deeds, even if they mostly involve shuffling paperwork.

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel, Kanopy

Beau Travail (1999)

Beau Travail | Trailer

Run time: 90 minutes

Galoup (Denis Lavant) reflects on his experiences in Djibouti, leading a section of men as part of the French Foreign Legion in writer/director Claire Denis’s sun-baked queer classic. Everything is going great for Gallup until the arrival of Gilles Sentain (Grégoire Colin), who inadvertently threatens Galoup’s relationship with his commander, and inspires Galoup to a nearly irrational jealousy. There’s the potential for violent drama, but the film favors the languid and elliptical (also the very sweaty), building tension through stunning scenery and brilliant camerawork. Beau Travail makes frequent appearances on Best-Movies-of-All-Time lists, and deservedly so.

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel

The Straight Story (1999)

The Straight Story (1999) | Trailer

Run time: 112 minutes

This one is a David Lynch movie so uncharacteristic of the director that it hardly feels like his movie; watch this Disney release back-to-back with Inland Empire and feel your brain melt. The great Richard Farnsworth, joined by Sissy Spacek, plays the real-life Alvin Straight, who crossed the country to visit his ailing brother on a riding lawnmower, going around five miles per hour, which is also about how fast the narrative moves. Lynch’s sensibilities somehow bring a feeling of newness to the slow-moving story set in a rural landscape.

Where to stream: Disney+

Weekend (2011)

Weekend – Official Trailer | HD | IFC Films

Run time: 97 minutes

Andrew Haigh’s slice-of-gay-life romantic drama stars starring Tom Cullen and Chris New as a couple of guys who hook-up at club and spend the titular weekend together. They talk about their interests and pasts, eat, go for walks, and engage in some frank (especially for the time) fucking—honestly, it’s still rare to find a mainstream-ish movie with even a basic understanding of the mechanics of cis gay male sex. Anyway! A planned move on Monday ups the stakes by putting a time limit on their relationship, but otherwise the dramatic beats are all emotional, with the movie providing a charming, poignant, and generally real-feeling look at modern relationships.

Where to stream: Tubi, The Criterion Channel, Kanopy, Pluto TV

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise (1995) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Run time: 101 minutes

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke wander around Vienna, having casual conversations and offering up monologues relating to their views on life, art, and love. Director Richard Linklater’s minimalist, flawlessly cast movie is simultaneously soaringly romantic and completely down to earth, its no-plot premise feeling as daring and risk-taking as anything in cinema. If you like it, two more similarly slow-paced installments follow.

Where to stream: Digital rental

Paterson (2016)

Paterson Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Adam Driver Movie

Jim Jarmusch directs Adam Driver as the title character, a bus driver and poet who follows pretty much the same routine each and every day (which is deeply relatable, even if it’s a lot more common in real life than onscreen). Paterson drives his bus, walks his wife’s dog, and stops at a bar for a beer in the afternoon, each day writing some poetry in his notebook. As a movie, it’s deliberately non-dramatic, even as it turns on the kind of small event that can cause major upheaval in your life.

Where to stream: Prime Video, Freevee

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1976), passage.

Run time: 201 minutes

Even the name of Chantal Ackerman’s masterpiece is long, with the finished film clocking in at over three hours and taking place over just three days, with a camera that, by design, hardly seems to move. And yet! The film captures the highly disciplined schedule of a widowed mother who goes through the same routine each day, one that includes fairly joyless sex work involving a single customer before her son gets home from school. It’s all quietly captivating. When the drudgery of Jeanne’s day-to-day live begins to unravel, very slowly, the resulting breakdown is as fascinating, hypnotic, and as subtly horrifying as everything that came before.

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel

It Follows (2014)

It Follows Official Trailer 1 (2015) – Horror Movie HD

Run time: 100 minutes

While it’s pacing might not be nearly as languid as that many others here, the premise of It Follows makes clear that we’re on an entirely different spectrum from other chase-based horror movies: even the slowest of slow zombies could outpace the threats in writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s breakout film. The film involves something that could be described as a sexually transmitted curse, in which a victim is pursued by an entity that can look like anyone. It doesn’t chase you, nor is it even overtly threatening…but it will pursue you to the ends of the Earth, if need be, taking its sweet-ass time. it’s probably the movie that kicked off “elevated horror” discourse back in the day, which some would argue is an entire sub-genre that belongs here.

Where to stream: Paramount+, Fubo, Showtime

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer | Official Trailer HD | A24

Run time: 121 minutes

Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos, who’d go on to get a pile of Oscar nominations for The Favourite the year after this one came out, is clearly never in a hurry…at least as a filmmaker…with each of his movies having pacing best described as stately. In The Favourite, that style serves to heighten the satire…here it helps to build something deeply unsettling. Inspired by Greek tragedy (Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis, specifically), the film introduces a seemingly perfect family (lead by Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman) who come into contact with a mysterious teenager (Barry Keoghan). He insinuates themselves into their lives, very gradually…we know he’s up to something, and gradually they do to…but it’s not until the movie’s final act that we understand fully his motives, as well as his relentlessly planned revenge.

Where to stream: Paramount+, Fubo, Showtime

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The Seventh Seal (1958) – Official Trailer

Run time: 96 minutes

There’s plenty of incident in Ingmar Bergman’s historical fantasy, but there’s also an awful lot of quiet. Many of the director’s films build toward waves of deep emotion that bubbles just under the surface, erupting only sporadically, but explosively. Here, instead, we have the Black Plague-era story of people at various stages of acceptance amid the sure knowledge that God, if not dead, is entirely silent and disinterested. Max von Sydow plays cynical knight Antonius Block, who memorably plays chess with death even as he encounters a parade of peasants in his travels whose only hope for happiness lies in defying ever-present death and embracing life.

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel

A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story | Official Trailer HD | A24

Run time: 92 minutes

Director David Lowery has a pretty stellar track record, at least outside a couple of perfectly fine Disney movies, and A Ghost Story is probably among the best ghost stories ever put to film. A man dies unexpectedly, but instead of moving on he haunts the wife and family he left behind, in a very traditional ghost sheet. That’s pretty much it as far as plot goes, but there’s poignant beauty in the man’s slow walk through the afterlife, and his growing realization that change is painful, but often hurts less than holding on.

Where to stream: Paramount+, Showtime

Drive My Car (2021)

DRIVE MY CAR – Trailer

Run time: 179 minutes

The story on which the movie is based, from Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore, IQ84) only runs to around 45 pages…and yet this film adaptation makes it to about three hours. Drive My Car, the story of a widowed artist who forges a bond with the young woman assigned to drive him to Hiroshima for his latest project, has little in the way of incident, and relatively minimal dialogue, though the cinematography as well as the sound design are top-tier. Ultimately, it’s a story about the transcendent beauty of human connection, even through all of the pain that keeps us apart. It’s also a film about how, sometimes, it’s OK to chat with you Lyft driver.

Where to stream: Max

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (New Trailer 2016) – In cinemas 29 July | BFI release

Run time: 185 minutes

Kubrick, who never really hit the same genre twice, had a go at historical drama here with astounding effect…even if it’s probably the least watched of his peak era (one which spanned decades). It’s probably not hard to understand why, given the long running time and lack of sci-fi/horror thrills in the styles of a 2001 or a Shining, but it’s very much a Kubrick film, with all that entails: emotions run deep but distant, and it’s a technical triumph, full of exquisite period detail. Though the pace is undeniably slow, sometimes to the point of languid, the story of a ruthless social climber (Ryan O’Neal) is also probably the director’s funniest film (in a very dry way), and also his most deeply cynical: Kubrick’s other films seem to be reaching to find the goodness in humanity, while this one makes the case that some people are just shits.

Where to stream: Digital rental

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The Thin Red Line Official Trailer #1 – Terrence Malick Movie (1998)

Run time: 185 minutes

It’s been said that it’s nearly impossible to make a true anti-war film, given that movies are so often in the business of enthralling and thrilling us…and how do you have a war movie without action? Writer/director Terence Malick’s Thin Red Line isn’t an anti-war film, precisely, but it’s far more focused on the philosophy of war and its effects on the lives and minds of the Word War II-era soldiers that make up its cast of characters. Battle sequences most often find us watching the faces of those witnessing them, and the result might not be the greatest war film, but it is something unique in the history of that genre.

Where to stream: Starz

Valhalla Rising (2009)

Valhalla Rising (2009) – Official Trailer HQ – UK Version

Run time: 92 minutes

As with Malick’s unconventional take on the war film, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn does something wholly unexpected with the many Viking-adjacent movies and TV shows of the past decade: the mute One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a fighter, but only because he’s been made to be. Thrall to a Norwegian chieftain in the Scottish highlands, his escape sees him befriended by a slightly more talkative boy as they set out toward the coast, beset by visions (mostly) and real threats (occasionally). The film is far more concerned with mood than violence, of which there’s a bit, but the long interludes of walking and mysterious dreams are where the film’s heart is.

 Where to stream: Tubi

Paris, Texas (1984)

PARIS, TEXAS Trailer (1984) – The Criterion Collection

Run time: 147 minutes

Travis Henderson (the late, great Harry Dean Stanton) wanders out of the desert, bewildered, and seemingly with no knowledge of who he is. A doctor manages to find his brother, Walt (the also late, also great Dean Stockwell), and Travis begins a journey back to himself, and his family, and the choices that defined his life up until that point. Wim Wenders is a brilliant director of desolation, and presents the modern(-ish) American west as a strange alien landscape that’s strange, mysterious, and sometimes healing. There’s a lot of that landscape over the film’s nearly three hours, but Travis’ journey is deeply emotional even if the land is bare.

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel

Solaris (1972)

SOLARIS (1972) Trailer | Lem 2021: I’ve Seen the Future

Run time: 166 minutes

Solaris is ostensibly a sci-fi thriller about first contact with an unknowable alien entity. It also includes a 5-minute uninterrupted scene of a car driving through a tunnel. (Nothing exciting happens in the tunnel.) Based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, this 1972 Soviet film from boring film artiste par excellence Andrei Tarkovsky takes you to another world that also doesn’t seem to have much going on, as astronaut psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent to the remote Solaris space station to figure out whether it’s worth continuing the mission to study the planet below, which appears to be nothing more than one vast ocean. But there’s something going on beneath those waves, and a beneath the endless, drawn out shots of the churning waves and the empty corridors of the station; both the movie and the alien world seek to lull you into a false sense of security. Tarkovsky’s goal was to move past what he saw as the cold materialism of Western science fiction into something more emotionally resonant, and damn if he didn’t succeed (while also being a little dull).

Where to stream: Max, The Criterion Channel, Freevee

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